RENO – They may be just a group of 6 and 7-year-olds playing football.
But on a warm Saturday fall morning, they played like twice their age in the biggest game of their young football careers. Fallon avenged a 26-0 loss to Lassen last month by defeating the California team, 7-6, for the Sierra Youth Football League Bandit championship at McQueen High School.
“I’ve had numerous coaches come up to me and say, ‘Man, your kids are disciplined. How do you get them so disciplined? How did you make adjustments?’ our kids are just good kids,” Fallon bandits coach Sean Richardson said. “I’m fortunate with real good, smart, intelligent kids. We throw a lot at them. They pick it up very well. I’m just fortunate to have good players.”
After that brutal loss in the first meeting on Oct. 1, Fallon responded with poise and discipline on defense to shut down Lassen.
With the ball late in the game and trying to run out the clock, Fallon fumbled the ball in Lassen territory, setting up an opportunity for Lassen to tie the game.
After Fallon stopped the Grizzlies on several plays to set up a long third-down conversion attempt, Lassen found an opening. Lassen’s quarterback took the handoff and found a hole on the right side, scampering down the sideline for a 44-yard touchdown with 1 minute, 1 second left in the game.
Needing to convert the PAT to send the game into overtime, Lassen was stopped trying to run the ball up the middle from the 2-yard line. Fallon recovered the ensuing onside kick to secure the championship.
“We played harder and we knew what to do to make more plays and work tough. It’s awesome,” Fallon’s Kenyon Wilson said.
For Richardson, he wasn’t sure how the team would respond on the PAT that would have tied the game.
“I was a little scared. It’s hard to tell how 6, 7 year olds bounce back from something like that,” Richardson said of the touchdown run. “It was a big experience. These kids just gained so much experience and poise. Being so young, I’m not sure if they knew that all the pressure was on them. We made a play.”
The offense found its rhythm late in the second quarter when the Greenwave scored the game’s first points.
“We just tried to come and play the small game where we just run off tackle and not get too deep on them and lose bunch of yards,” Richardson said. “We just want to get 3, 4, 5 yards and move the chains. The last time we played, we were losing too many yards trying to get outside.”
Quarterback Maxton Richardson ran through the goal line on fourth down and Rylan Clark swung to the left for a 2-yard run for the PAT to give Fallon a 7-0 lead – and Lassen’s first deficit of the season.
“Rylan ran at the tight end and scored. I was excited,” Richardson said.
Added coach Richardson:
“We hammered it that we were going to keep it inside and play good defense. it seemed to work. These are young kids that haven’t played a lot of football. Just the practice throughout they year, they got better. They started understanding the game more and started playing more aggressive. They understand what our team defense was trying to do. It wasn’t an individual person. I’m proud of all of them.”
Richardson said the offensive line stepped up and helped ignite the running game with Tommy Ames and Clark getting carries. Drake Roulette was instrumental in the blocking scheme and quarterback Richardson benefited from protection.
“My entire offensive line played so much better…I can’t name them all,” coach Richardson said. “Up front, my offensive line did tremendous. My running backs ran hard today. I told them quit running outside and to stick it inside, run it in a hole, and run hard. They did that.”
Pleased with his team’s performance, Richardson was happy about the community support of the FYFL program, especially with Saturday’s championship.
“It’s big. We had a lot of support today,” he said. “It was not just family of our bandit kids. It was coaches. It was friends from other divisions. I had friends here whose kids don’t play anymore. They’re just here to support the local Fallon team. It’s great to be from a small town that supports everybody.”
The Greenwave bandits team includes players Chase Logan, Caleb Edgmon, Tristan Shear, Trey Bradley, Jace Conner, Arad Duenas, Ames, Rowlett, Clark, Talen Taylor, Darren Robinson, Mathew Harral,Cooper White, Vincent FastHorse, Maxton Richardson, William Brady, Owen Holcomb, Wilson, Quinn Chandler, Wesley Thompson and James Lofthouse. Along with Richardson, coaches include Jeff Bradley, Chad Edgmon, Patrick Holcomb and Aaron Clark.